Following a disappointing performance in nonconference play, the Harvard men's basketball team shook off a test from visiting Dartmouth, 61-51, in its Ivy League opener on Saturday afternoon. The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Crimson (6-9, 1-0 Ivy League) and was the team's third consecutive victory over the Big Green (4-8, 0-1).
Sophomore forward Seth Towns was the leading scorer for Harvard on a day when both teams struggled to hold onto the basketball—the teams combined for 36 giveaways. The Crimson jumped out to a 19-9 lead to begin the contest but its guests fought back after the intermission. Dartmouth took the lead with just over seven minutes to play in the second half but Harvard ended the game on a 19-6 run.
“We all know basketball is a game of runs,” sophomore guard Justin Bassey said. “They had their run and we knew we were bound to have ours. We just got to dig in, get stops, and really come together as a unit. We finished the second half really strong as a team.”
As has been the case this season, the Crimson relied on its shooting from deep. The hosts shot a scalding 48 percent from the long range, converting 12 three-pointers in the process. Towns, Bassey, and junior Corey Johnson each hit three triples.
Accuracy from long range was also a critical facet in Harvard’s late-game run. The Crimson scored 12 of their final 19 points from beyond the three-point line. Of the four triples down the stretch, three were essentially from the exact same location—the left corner baseline directly in front of the Crimson bench.
“I do think we have been better [this season] than how we have shot the ball,” coach Tommy Amaker said. “Certainly we were fortunate and happy that we made some big ones here this afternoon.”
Sophomore forward Chris Lewis had a relatively quiet day from the field, shooting three-for-six from the field for six points to go along with four rebounds. However, the Alpharetta, Ga., native had a standout performance on defense. Lewis swatted away four Big Green shot attempts and did not commit a single personal foul in 24 minutes of play.
“When Chris is just killing it on the inside and dominating in the paint and the glass, that enables us to get really good looks at the basket.” Bassey said.
Sophomore point guard Bryce Aiken played four minutes in the first half after missing Harvard's last four contests with a knee injury. Sophomore guard Christian Juzang, Aiken's replacement in the starting lineup, set a career high in points (12) in a team-leading 35 minutes but turned the ball over five times.
“[Bryce] needs some time to practice I think to build himself up and get his feet wet in the game, like he did today, and get ready for practice,” Amaker said. “I think that’s what he needs more than anything.”
The Crimson held a 15-point lead at the 17:50 mark of the second half, but the advantage was squandered after a scoreless stretch of over six minutes. In that span, Dartmouth scored 15 unanswered points and found itself leading by three with 5:59 to play.
Senior guard Miles Wright paced the Big Green with 23 points on a day in which his team struggled mightily from the field. While Wright shot 8-of-13 from the field, his teammates went a combined 9-of 32.
Freshman forward Chris Knight, who scored in double figures in nine of 11 games entering Saturday, played in limited minutes and logged just two points. Sophomore guard Brendan Barry, Dartmouth’s leading three-point scorer, was also largely ineffective and converted just one triple in the contest.
Overall, the Crimson had a strong day on defense. Limiting the Big Green offense largely to Wright played into Amaker’s gameplan and showed important development in practice for Harvard over the winter break.
“We worked on some fundamental things [on defense] like our stance and denial of passes,” Amaker said. “I thought it really paid big dividends for us to give us that cushion in the first half. We really worked on [defense] and it was really good to see that the work paid off.”
—Staff writer Henry Zhu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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